Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston showed physical activity before pregnancy can slash the risk of gestational diabetes by up to half. The team also found exercise in early pregnancy cuts the risk by a quarter.
Promoting exercise among these groups could help prevent gestational diabetes and its complications, the authors said.
Researchers examined studies of 34,929 patients’ activity levels prior to pregnancy and the resultant rate of gestational diabetes. A total of 2,813 cases of gestational diabetes were reported.
They conducted a similar analysis of 4,401 patients in early pregnancy, of which 361 developed the condition.
Women in the highest physical activity quartiles prior to pregnancy were 55% less likely to later develop gestational diabetes than those in the lowest. This benefit dropped to 24% among those exercising during early pregnancy.
NICE recommends pregnant women undertake 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per day.
Deepa Khatri, clinical advisor at Diabetes UK, said: ‘Women should try to achieve a healthy weight before conception, as active weight reduction during pregnancy is not appropriate because of the risk of compromising maternal and foetal health.
‘But it is important to encourage expectant mothers to avoid excess weight gain.’